A team of International Medical Relief (IMR) medical professionals including doctors, nurses and health assistants did Himalayan Medical Expedition in Manaslu region for about two weeks. The trek that started on 2nd April and concluded on 14th April was aimed at providing medical assistance to the remote villages of Manaslu region. The 7-member team had Ms Anna Amita Desimone (US), Ms. Sarah Rose Burney (US), Ms. Sophie Dojacques (US), Mr. Austin Ryan Eaton (US), Ms. Deanna Joy Shapiro (US), Ms Zoe Harriet Smyth (Ireland) and Ms. Tatiana Claudia Doyle (US).
The first day of the trek started with a 9 hour drive to Soti Khola, the starting point of the 13 days’ trek. The team provided medical care to many en-route villages including Philim (120 patients), Namrung (45 patients), Samdu (40 patients) and Samagaun (65 patients) where they distributed medicine as well. Their mobile clinic also served the trekkers who they met on the way. The most common problems found among the locals were arthritis, back pain, chest pain, lack of appetite and high blood pressure.
Along with providing the medical care, they also had an exclusive opportunity to get real close to Manaslu (8163m), the eighth highest mountain and the marvelous views of isolated highland villages untouched by creeping modernity. This physically demanding trek also led them to Manaslu Base Camp and Larke-La pass (5160m), the highest point of the whole trek, from where they got to savor the stupendous views of the Manaslu panorama. Finally after the humane service and adventure of almost two weeks, they concluded their trek at Dharapani. At the end of the trek, back in Kathmandu, the team rejoiced the trip and expressed their happiness for being a part of the humanitarian cause.
This is the second trip of Explore Himalaya with IMR. We take it as a matter of pride to be the local partner of IMR and hope to work for such noble cause in future as well.
This February, we welcomed a mammoth group of 54 Singaporean corporate travelers from Pejandy Corporation Pte Ltd. The group spent 5 nights 6 days in the two iconic cities of Nepal, Kathmandu and Pokhara. The cultural tour that started from 14 February not just included the natural and cultural highlights but also had special delights like Annapurna Heli Tour, mountain flight, Zipflyer, Chinese New Year celebration and even a refreshing picnic in the wood. This tour provided the members with a welcome relief from their daily work life, and also offered them a chance to share beautiful moments together, which helps in making Pejandy a bigger and stronger family.
This multi activity tour comprised of Singaporean families including two Greek travelers with members ranging from 6 years of age to 80. So, the trip was more like an extended family tour rather than a bunch of colleagues just sharing corporate bonding. The group started their tour with a mountain flight the very next day after arriving in Kathmandu. After the magical views of stunning Himalayan range, they flew to Pokhara. Enroute they had yet another beautiful aerial experience of endless Himalayas including majestic Mt Manaslu and Annapurna. Once in Pokhara, they explored the city, did boating and had a pleasant stroll along lakeside- something typical in Pokhara. However, that was just a beginning. On 17th Feb, the group had a picnic at Dibolla, a quaint wooded area with a flowing river nearby. The same evening, they had a mini “lantern festival” to welcome Chinese New Year “The Year of Dog”. Well, a tranquil evening and gliding lantern rising up and up was some sight to behold!
The next day came with another greater delight of having an adventurous heli tour to Annapurna Base Camp. To organize a heli tour in the Himalayas for a group of 54 people was a feat in itself. However, everything went perfect with our two standby choppers. Thanks to Fishtail Air, one of our subsidiaries, who made this challenging tour flawless and memorable! After the real close up view of Annapurna, the members flew back to Kathmandu on the same day.
The thrilling memories of Pokhara were still fresh in mind but Kathmandu was all set to offer some historic moments. In Kathmandu, they visited two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Swayambhu and Patan Durbar Square. Both places known for immense architectural and cultural wonders offered rare glimpses of the heritages dating back to medieval age of Nepal. Finally after spending 6 days exploring the two mesmerizing cities, the trip concluded. However, the trip was not limited to touring alone – the group also took delight in the culinary richness of Nepal in some handpicked restaurants in Kathmandu and Pokhara including Kava, Pho 99, Boomerang, Mezze, Evoke, Gokarna House etc.
So as you can see, so many things and so few days – yet the trip made sure to hit up all the best spots and best activities by the end. As it is said “A happy employee is a happy business”, so needless to say, “Happy Pejandy” at the end! If you are also thinking of doing similar corporate incentive tours, just let us know at email@example.com . We are always ready for some extra miles!
[Kipling India Travels (KI) is a subsidiary of Explore Himalaya (EH). KI specializes in operating unique tours with class and comfort throughout India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Some of the special tours being operated regularly by KI are culinary tours, Snow Leopard Tour, Birding Tour etc. In this series, we are writing about these tours to share the unique experiences had by KI clients to EH travelers so that our travelers will know, consider, or maybe plan for the next holiday. PHOTO CREDIT: Prakash Subba, Sr. Manager Operations and Business Development, Kipling India]
Travelling, to many, is scrambling over rocky faces, lolling in endless beaches or getting lost in the labyrinth of ancient civilizations. However, to some, it’s knowing the secret of culture by indulging in its food heritage. Kipling India with its tantalizing trip “Culinary & Cultural Tour” is catching this spirit of gastronomes for whom food is a serious business. This unique tour that combines the culinary virtuosity of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Lucknow; embarks upon a journey of authentic Indian food culture where one can discover an energetic mélange of culture, aroma and flavors.
In October 2015, Kipling India had its “all-lady” group of six members from the US and Canada. As it was the first time ever for both Kipling India and the visitors, the excitement was at par for both. The trip was a mix of culture, history and spiritual beauty while indulging the palate with exotic food and drink where the bustling populous land and its vibrancy reveal the true essence of a culturally rich country. This unique trip began in Delhi, where the members prowled the alleys in bazaar in search of tantalizing street food, luncheoned at a traditional Haweli, and explored the old city in rickshaw before heading to the magical city of Jaipur, where the adventurous food walk was accompanied by the heritage tour of Amber Fort. After the trip, they headed to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, the wondrous architectural masterpiece and finally the whole tour culminated at Lucknow to experience the best of Awadhi cuisine before finally heading to Delhi. Since the tour is blend of cultural simplicity and culinary sophistication, no wonder, it is one of the best trips Kipling Travel has ever operated.
Day 01 : Arrive Delhi.
Day 02 : Tour of the city with cooking class.
Day 03 : Food walk of Old Delhi.
Day 04 : Drive to Jaipur (280 kms/06 hrs). Evening food walk.
Day 05 : Tour of the city with cooking class.
Day 06 : Drive to Agra (250 kms/05 hrs) via FatepurSikri.
Day 07 : Visit Taj Mahal and Fort. Evening food walk.
Day 08 : Express train to Lucknow (05 hrs). Dinner of Awadhi cuisine.
Day 09 : Tour of the city with Culinary walk in the evening.
Day 10 :Tour of the city with cooking class.
Day 11 : Fly Delhi. Evening farewell dinner.
Day 12 : Depart Delhi for home.
25 Oct: Upon their arrival in Delhi, they were greeted with warm welcome and then transferred to their hotel. At hotel the briefing session added real fuel to their excitement.
26 Oct: If you think today is the day of ruins, forts and statues, you’d be wrong! The tour started with food walk of Old Delhi, where the guests experienced heritage and bazaar walk, cycle rickshaw ride with some street food tasting followed by local home visit with traditional lunch in a Haveli (Old private mansion). Delhi is a city of fascinating contrasts where the old and new, cultural and contemporary, rural and urban, all blend harmoniously. Food walks in Old Delhi can be best enjoyed in its original setting, in noisy labyrinthine by lanes of Chawri Bazaar and Chandni Chowk. The dishes on can savor in Old Delhi are large, thick and juicy jalabis, Aloo Chaat (Crisp fried potato) dunked in a mélange of chutneys; varieties of stuffed paranthas (potato, onion, cottage cheese, cauliflower etc). For desserts one can try out the creamy, delicious phirni and Kulfi. Followed by city tour of New Delhi, the guests really enjoyed the visit to Sikh Temple (Bangla Sahab Gurudwara) to witness the Community kitchen and try their hands on making rotis (Chapatis).
27/28 Oct: After Delhi they departed to Jaipur, the Pink City and the Capital of Rajasthan, the city which has always fascinated visitors with its vibrant people, magnificent forts and food. They spent two days in this magical city to experience the magnificent Amber Fort and amazing food walk. The walk gave them a fantastic experience of street food, colorful shops and plenty of photo opportunities. Compared to Delhi, Food walk in Jaipur is different for its much organized lanes and colorful shops. They visited LMB (Laxmi Mistan Bhandar) sweet shop, one of the oldest restaurants established in 1949. It is famous for its delicious snacks like Paneer Ghewar, Doodh Feeni, Rasmalai etc to name a few.
29 Oct: Today is the day when the guests had the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum that defines architectural grandeur and immortalized love. They left just before sunrise to be the first in line to visit the Taj Mahal in the cool morning and in the best light. The best part at this time in the morning is there are so few tourists you practically have the Taj to yourself- No crowds to fight through and plenty of opportunities to take photos in the most dramatic lighting. The Taj experience was an incredibly moving experience to them. In the evening they proceeded for food walk in the busy non-touristy market where they indulged in some of Agra’s best local food and sweets including Petha, Kababs and Kulfi (Indian Ice cream).
30 Oct: They boarded the Shatabdi train early in the morning for a six hour comfortable ride to Lucknow, the city of the Nawabs which is famous all over the world for its Tehzeeb, “the graceful etiquette”. It can very well termed as a city that has carved a niche by attracting gastronomes for the want of discovering and re – discovering the Awadhi Cuisine. Lucknow has a colony of chefs called “Bawarchi Tola”. In the evening guests were treated with Awadhi dinner. They had experienced the concept of food loyalty and the real taste of the original Tundey Kebabs, Raheem’s Nihari and Mobeen’s Pasanda Kebabs. Besides food tasting tours, they had an Awadhi cooking session with an expert at the place of a local host to give them a first-hand experience on the use of spices and method of making an authentic Indian Cuisine. The cooking workshop was followed by an orientation session.
31 Oct: On the last day we flew back to Delhi and in the evening we concluded our tour with an amazing farewell dinner at Indian Accent, the restaurant popular for showcasing inventive Indian cuisine by complementing the flavors and traditions of India with global ingredients and techniques. Indian Accent is the only award winning Indian restaurant to be featured in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017.
01 Nov: As it is said every good thing must come to an end, the concluding day of this eventful tour also came close. The guests bade final goodbye with lots of memories to cherish forever.
This tour made a simple traveler a sophisticated foodie who explored the culinary maze with closed eyes and let their taste buds do the rest! Kipling India’s Culinary tours stood out as it operated in small group rather than a bus full of strangers, with a local host that made them feel quite at home. The whole experience allowed them to be connected with trendy neighborhoods with smart cafés, bars, restaurants and interesting shops and boutiques. They also used the metro and auto rickshaws to zoom around these places with ease – just like a local. In the meantime, however, they didn’t miss the opportunity to focus major sites but in a whole interesting way. To sum up, the members had the experience of lifetime that feasts both their soul and palate! If you are also interested in experimenting your taste buds and being a member of the gastronome community in some of the finest cultural cities, the trip is the made for you!
[Kipling India Travels (KI) is a subsidiary of Explore Himalaya (EH). KI specializes in operating unique tours with class and comfort throughout India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Some of the special tours being operated regularly by KI are culinary tours, Snow Leopard Tour, Birding Tour etc. In this series, we are writing about these tours to share the unique experiences had by KI clients to EH travelers so that our travelers will know, consider, or maybe plan for the next holiday. ]
Precarious climbs and steep falls, bone chilling cold and heart-warming sights, simple trails and meaningful journeys, all embracing mountains and a mythic-like rarity! These are the images that come to mind when we think about snow leopard. To many, it’s still a fantasy to behold the Himalayan gem right in front of the eyes. However, Kipling India’s incredible expedition “The Himalayan Grey Ghost” makes it possible; and let you live through all these and even more.
The Snow Leopard tour that takes you on a journey of Matthiessenian experience to one of the most impressive lands on Earth allows one to have an epic experience of both adventure and enlightenment. However, nothing is promised about such an enigmatic cat who is a master at camouflaging but it is always believed that if you give to nature, nature will give back to you! All you need is a lot of patience and a bit of faith!
On 04 Feb 2017, Kipling India had a group of 5 enthusiasts from USA to embark on this extraordinary journey of spotting Snow Leopard. Starting from Leh, which was once the glorious capital of Himalayan Kingdom Ladakh, the team journeyed through one of the harshest terrains to station at Rumbak, the Snow Leopard capital of the world. After surviving in the thin cold air in the wilderness for about a week, the team’s ultimate test of patience and perseverance was paid off. Though that was the only time they spotted this enigmatic masterpiece, they have truly become one among the few lucky travelers who could have otherwise felt themselves fortunate just to see the mountains.
Day 01: Delhi Arrival
Day 02: Delhi / Leh
Day 03: Sightseeing at Leh
Day 04: Leh – Zinchen – Rumbak
Day 05-13: Rumbak
Day 14: Rumbak – Zinchen – Leh
Day 15: Leh/Delhi
Day 16: Departure from Delhi
04 Feb 2017: All the group members arrived at Delhi International airport for the most awaited journey. It was then followed by meeting and greeting, and checking in hotel- something usual prior to any trip. However, there was a lot of anticipation and excitement- something that made even the arrival day extraordinary.
05 Feb 2017: An early morning flight from Delhi took the members to Leh airport, from where they were picked by Kipling representatives to hotel. The flight of about 1 and 15 mins was not less than an adventure in itself. The fleeting landscape, the dramatic altitudes and the abrupt switch from the humidity of Delhi to bewitching cold desert of Leh was like showcasing the whims of nature. Leh is a small town with compact red mud brick houses and narrow lanes. With its Ladhaki architecture, Buddhist life style and unmistakable mod cons of a touristic centre, it’s not that difficult to fall in love with this place. The members rested the whole day for acclimatization.
06 Feb 2017: The day started with touring activities from early morning. The members observed prayers at monastery and explored the former Palace of the King of Ladakh, the architectural icon of Leh. Built in the 17th century after the model of Potala Palace in Lhasa, and now undergoing restoration, the Palace stands sentinel overlooking the town of Leh. The visit was followed by a drive to Hemis monastery situated 45 km from Leh. The monastery belongs to Dugpa Kargyutpa order or Red Sect of Buddhism and is enriched with a large number of Thangkas or paintings, which are exhibited during Hemis festival, one of the famous festivals in Ladakh.
07 Feb 2017: After spending two magical days in Leh city, the time had finally come to leave the civilization behind, and set off for the true adventure. They drove for an hour to Zinchen, which is the entrance of Hemis National Park. The Hemis High Altitude National Park extends over 4400 sq kms and is widely known for some rare species like snow leopard and bharal (Blue Sheep). It has the highest density of Snow Leopards of all protected areas in the world. The Park is home to six villages Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling that inhabit about 1,600 people.
From Zinchen, they had to cover the rest of the journey on foot. They were accompanied by a pony man and his 6 mules loaded with gears and camping equipments to carry to the camp at Rumbak, their stopover for the whole Snow Leopard session. Rumbak (4050m) a small village of 10 – 12 households clustered together, is set amidst rolling mountains and green valley in Hemis National Park. Often referred to as the Snow Leopard capital of the world, it is the most distinguished spot in the world for Snow Leopard sightings in the winter from Mid December till Mid March. However, the place is equally rewarding for spotting other wildlife native to the place like Urials, Blue Sheep, Wolves etc.
08 – 16 Feb 2018: The group spent the next 10 days with their guide Gyalson and Gurmet both with hands-on experience of multiple hikes in the ridges in search of Snow Leopard. They were expert in tracking the minutest evidences like pugmarks, scrapes and scats in the harsh terrain. The area around the Rumbak catchment is one of the best places in the world to see these mythical cats.
Every morning, in this sparsely vegetated alpine zone, was like a ritual. It used to start in quietude and humility- watching the silent sunrise, the enormity of the mountains around and being aware about one’s existence in the vastness of the wild. Not something we can appreciate every day! Stepping out of a tent into the valley erased the concerns of lack of shower or running water.
Over the next several days the daily routine didn’t really change as the guides were scouting for Snow Leopard signs and possible sightings from first ray until last light. In the meantime, they also visited the junction of Husing Nala and Tarbung Nala including the high ridge lines. Each day after breakfast group members hiked up the main Lato Nala vantage point at Rumbak Sumdo and spent the day scanning Kharlung Valley and the adjoining areas. It became very apparent from the moment when group members entered this beautiful yet hostile terrain that it would be very difficult to see a Snow Leopard.
The guides spent the whole time just watching for clues and signs through telescopes. While group members were looking for the Snow Leopard, group members had many opportunities to observe and photograph other mammals that inhabit these mountains. The Bharal or Blue Sheep is the most common, and the group members also spotted Wolly Hare, alpine birds and tracks of Red Foxes during daily hikes.
THE MAGICAL DAY!!!
The Big Day finally arrived! The group members were having breakfast when they heard some commotion outside the dining tent. Naturally they got up and went outside when the guides gave them the news they had been longing to hear for last few days. Yes, there had been a sighting of a Snow Leopard on the mountain overlooking their camp. Everyone then made a scramble to their own tents to get their camera gear and get properly dressed. Those few moments of nerve wrecking excitement yet the necessity to remain calm, was later on described as a blur memory by the members.
Once they reached the spot, the guides helped them to set up cameras to locate the Snow Leopard high up on the mountain ridge but made sure to be carefully hidden and out of sight. The members just lay down in the morning sun without a care in the world, and started feasting their eyes, and most probably their soul too. Nature finally opened up and gave them what they asked for!
Over the next few days all walked and trekked over frozen rivers and steep valleys and ridges once more to the places the guides knew and had seen Snow Leopards in the past. Each day returning to the little “Home” nestled between the mountain ranges of the Indian Himalayas, was a different person than the one who left it in the morning. As said before, days without the spot was also not wasted, they got to traverse through some of the most stunning landscapes on planet, with occasional sightings of soaring eagles and vultures. Blue Sheep appearing from the shadows, watching humans, then carrying on with their lives, all in full view was just next to magical.
Amongst the fit of adventure also, everyone was well aware about the necessity of being healthy in such extreme condition. It was taken care beyond appreciation by Lobzang, the chef and helpers Stanzin and Rigzen by making it possible to make fresh, warm and tasty food in such next-to- impossible place. They also made sure that the group members get their food on time, whether in camp or in distant spots. On one of the days where group members walked up to a vantage point or pass, they visited a homestay high up around 4500m above sea level. It was run by one of the guides Gurmet’s sister and her family. Though it was a bit of tough walk to get there as the oxygen seemed to be disappearing, the members were mesmerized by the warm hospitality and the wonderful decor of the rooms and kitchen.
17 Feb 2017: On last day in Hemis Natinoal Park before heading back to Leh, the members packed up and the whole team took down all the tents and loaded everything onto the mules and donkeys for the walk to pick-up point which would take around an hour. The heavy-hearted members bade the last farewell to the mountains which was their home for last ten days. Once again the place was empty but it treasured some unforgettable moments of some curious hearted people from distant land who dared to take up the journey to this end, just to behold the exceptional gift of nature.
So, finally everything came to an end! But it was like a new beginning to the members. They returned back to the hustle and bustle, to the madding crowd – but this time with memories to last the lifetime!
If you also want to be an elite adventurer, a humble soul-seeker, an achiever of a rarity or a beholder of “a terrible beauty, with its uncompromising yellow eyes, wired into the depths of its unfathomable spirit, gazing out from the cover of innumerable editions” as described by Peter Matthiessen in his classic travel book “The Snow Leopard”, you are welcome to this lifetime adventure in the Himalayas. Who knows you can be the next one to be privileged!
Travelling can be more than just indulging and entertaining oneself. The recent “CKY School Ghorepani-Ghandruk Circuit Trek” organized by Explore Himalaya in partnership with Travel Advisor (Hong Kong) proved it right. Like any other trip in Annapurna region, this trek was also packed with exploration of incredible nature and amazing culture. However, what sets it apart is the meaning the students’ group has given to the trip by creating positive impacts on the communities they visited.
CKY School Ghorepani-Ghandruk Circuit Trek that started from 10th Dec to 14th Dec 2017, had 22 members including 18 students and 4 teachers from Hong Kong. The trek starting point was Birethati, from where it continued through Tirkhedunga, Ghorepani, Tadapani, Ghandruk; and culminated once again in Birethati making a complete loop. Their typical trek day was a bit different from the normal trekkers’. Apart from enjoying the natural wonders typical of the region, at each stopover, they intermingled with the local communities, visited schools and health posts, donated educational materials and medical supplies, shared experiences with students and developed connectivity with local guardians. And at the end of each day, they had an experience exchange session in which they shared their thoughts on the day’s activities, which helped them to reflect on their experiences and gain a new perspective on life.
Altogether they helped four schools and health posts namely Bhume Adharbhut Bidhyalaya at Hille, Ulleri Health Post at Ulleri, Ghandruk Health Post and Meshram Barahi Maa School at Ghandruk. In between the caring and sharing, however, they also didn’t miss the opportunity to relish the beauty of Annapurna region including a trip to Poonhill, a not-to-be-missed viewpoint known for magnificent sunrise view in the Himalayas. At Ghandruk, they enjoyed cultural show organized by “AamaSamuha”, literally mothers’ group, which gave them more insights on the culture of the region.
After the completion of the trek, on 15th Dec the students visited Rainbow Orphanage Home in Pokhara where they donated sports materials and clothes to the orphanage. They also drew a colorful mural on a canvas with fingerprints and beautiful message, and gifted it to them. They also played football, volleyball and rugby with the children, which added a fun element to their visit. As rugby game is new to Nepali people, the children really enjoyed the sport which was sure to take few days for them to get off the memories. The students’ visit to the orphanage ended the whole trip in a rewarding note. The trip, for sure, has helped the students to foster a better understanding of life and be an insightful person when they returned home.
The team of Explore Himalaya takes pride in being a partner of the program which has helped to redefine the meaning of travelling in the Himalayas, especially for young travelers. We want to extend our gratitude to all the supporters including the crew and local communities who made this remarkable project possible. And once again thanks to CKY School for making a difference!